FinancialForce today previewed a Chatter application called Chatterbox that:
...monitors activities on Force.com against a set of rules defined by the user. When a rule is triggered, the users linked to that rule are notified and a salesforce.com Chatter stream is started. Chatterbox searches constantly for events that trigger those alerts, and encourages collaboration in response to a situation.
When I first heard about this I was a tad skeptical but as the company explained more about what they're doing I first became intrigued and then excited. Some of the business scenarios this could help manage include:
When an outstanding credit on a customer account goes over 90 days – finance and sales professionals linked to that account can be immediately alerted, then they can quickly identify the reasons for non-payment and act to try and solve the problem to help cash flow and prevent further sales to that client being held up. When a specific supplier has been paid or a new supplier engaged – to help procurement and marketing departments better manage their suppliers and improve relationships. Customer accounts that show no activity for a specified length of time – may indicate service deficiencies and help ensure customers are contacted regularly. New sales over a specific size or won against a key competitor – to keep management and marketing abreast of sales trends.
The basic idea of having finance alert a sales or service person isn't new. In the past it would most likely have occurred using email. But then we know how email has become both a blessing and a curse. Chatter opens up many possibilities that could see finance become a business value enabler rather than being perceived as a back office nuisance. One off surgical help is useful, but the larger opportunity comes in activity pattern discovery where what Sigurd Rinde might call Barely Repeatable Processes are captured and become actionable in the context of business processes that matter. Don't be mistaken - this is a huge deal and a direct example of where I believe Enterprise 2.0 should be going.
Mixing sales/marketing and finance has traditionally been the equivalent of mixing oil and water. It doesn't happen. My sense is that if FinancialForce can help department leaders understand the implications then adoption should be a breeze. I won't pretend it will be easy. Mistrust and distrust are commonplace between departmental silos. But if you believe that people want to offer their best then it ought to be relatively straightforward to convince.
UPDATE from the blurbs:
With particular focus on driving collaboration between sales and finance departments, the Chatter-enabled FinancialForce application will allow more frequent and effective collaboration around sales opportunities, customer accounts and service issues in order to achieve best pricing and payment structures for big deals or avoid costly payment delays and disputes. It will bring finance out of the back office and back into the heart of the business, enabling them to get involved in conversations earlier to negate problems and improve customer service.
For me this is the first potentially large scale business use case of social computing where the direct integration between applications has genuine business meaning. As such, it is a significant change in what design thinking based applications might look like in the near future. When viewed objectively, this is not about co-mingling functions but about real world business problem solving capability.
Disclosure: FinancialForce.com sponsors my personal weblog and is an occasional consulting client.